Getting Internet access while on charter is often a challenge. I travel with a laptop as well as a Blackberry, and usually one or the other can find a signal, but in general, I experience angst aboard every charter yacht I visit until I see the online connection actually up and running. Too many times, I have been told that a yacht will have Internet access only to learn that WiFi is available only occasionally at marinas, or via a satellite system that charges thousands of dollars for a week's worth of e-mails and photo uploads to places like this blog.
Thus, I was interested to learn this week about YachtWeb.gr, a new venture that is seeking to simplify Web access for charter clients in Greece. The service is a division of Multihull Yachting, which has been in the bareboat business in Greece since 2002. Multihull Yachting was hearing from its U.S. and Western European clients that they were suffering tremendously high roaming charges when trying to get online from their bareboats, so the company negotiated a contract with Cosmote, the largest mobile network operator in Greece, and came up with a package plan for charter clients who want local rates for online access while cruising in Greek waters.
"We deliver to our clients, directly at their yacht, a USB modem that contains a SIM card," company owner Vasilis Podiadis told me. "If the clients have their own laptop, our staff will help them install the device and test that is operating. If the clients do not have a laptop, they can rent a netbook from us to take onboard. At the end of the charter, our staff will pick up the equipment."
The cost for rental of the USB modem is a flat rate of €80 for a week's worth of unlimited uploads and downloads, and the price includes local VAT plus any agent's commission (should you, for instance, purchase this service through a reputable charter broker). Netbook rental is an additional €80 per week, Podiadis said.
When I compare the flat modem rate with what most U.S.-based companies charge to use a SIM card on an international roaming plan, or what a charter yacht's VSAT service costs if it is billed in addition to the base rate, then what YachtWeb is offering is quite reasonable--especially if you use Skype on the laptop to make phone calls, thus eliminating your cell phone roaming charges, too.
Podiadis told me that he thus far has been working mostly with bareboat companies in Greece, but that he hopes to expand his service into segments of the crewed charter market where Internet access is not included in the yacht's weekly base rate.
I look forward to "from the field" comments from anyone who uses the YachtWeb service in the future. If it's as good as it sounds, then it seems like a smart idea to me.